Winter Voices Review
It’s winter, and freezing. You’re alone to fend for yourself, and haunted by memories of the past. This is the somber tale of Winter Voices, the episodic turn-based RPG by developer Beyond the Pillars, that aims to engross players through an extensive and poetic storyline, though you’re more inclined to doze off before you’re even done with the prologue.
You play the role of a 24 year old woman whose father just died. You’re then left to wander the world by yourself, constantly haunted by memories which are actual enemies in the game, and who like to speak in poems. Not only does the unyielding onslaught of text bring the game to a screeching halt, it reads like it’s been ripped straight out of an emo kid's deepest-darkest secret journal. Coupled with the character's cumbersome movements, Winter Voices should not be played by the suicidally depressed.
Your created (albeit with very limited options) character will earn XP as you battle memories, complete given goals, and even have conversations with unimportant characters. Many times I’ve just come up to a random NPC, only to find a reward of 250XP for it. One thing Winter Voices doesn’t slouch on is the skill tree. There are tons of skills to choose from once you level up enough. The question is whether or not you can keep yourself motivated to reach that point.
Memories will constantly attack you, even at the most inappropriate and random times, and task you with a certain goal, usually reaching a particular part of the battle map while fending for yourself with psychic abilities. It’s a traditional RPG formula that also suffers from extremely slow pacing, and odd difficulty spikes. At your disposal is a psychic push power, an anticipation move letting you dodge some incoming attacks, a detection power that can see traps, and an escape skill that grants more mobility during each turn.
Upgrading your character's abilities on the skill tree, though extensive, can be quite confusing. The game forgoes traditional stats in favor for Humor, Will Power, Memory, Perspicacity, Charisma and Intuition. Though they’re explained in the game, remembering exactly what perspicacity or memory does at any given time is difficult.
The hand-drawn backgrounds are drenched in melancholy and loneliness, while the music keeps the mood haunting. Then we get to the interface... It runs at a decade-old resolution, so you'll either keep it windowed or alter your monitor's resolution and blow out the image. The most annoying feature, or lack thereof, is the absence of keyboard controls. I don’t mind having character movement strictly dedicated to the mouse, but hotkeys for opening a map, skills and character pages, or even skills during combat would have been greatly appreciated.
Winter Voices is sadly too slow and the buildup doesn’t pay off in the end. This is possibly the worst idea for episodic content, as it already takes quite an amount of determination to trudge through just one chapter. Although, if you’re the type of person that enjoys a good 1000-page novel, and you have the fortitude to get through the immensely slow gameplay, you might find this game eerily intriguing.